Research Assistant during Covid-19

Written by Gina Halliwell, BSc Psychology and Child Development 2020 graduate.


BSc Psychology and Child Development graduate 2020! YAY! Not the most ideal year to graduate but made it there successfully in the end!

Graduate, check.

Research Assistant position during coronavirus, check!

Who would have thought with all the difficulties of 2020 I would complete my degree and get the chance to be a Research Assistant with Staffs! Coronavirus couldn’t have been a better opportunity really, being able to investigate children’s experiences of the pandemic through collecting their drawings.

This opportunity appeared when my Level 6 Project Supervisor Dr Sarah Rose emailed me to say she was involved in planning some research into children’s experiences of coronavirus and if the ethics and funding were approved would I like to be their Research Assistant? Of course! What an incredible opportunity!

Example drawing submitted for the research

When the project was approved we had our first virtual meeting as a project team, over Microsoft Teams! I got to meet and discuss the project with Dr Richard Jolley, Dr Claire Barlow, Dr Romina Vivaldi and of course Dr Sarah Rose. All of the meetings and communication took place online via email and Microsoft Teams, having always had face-to-face meetings throughout university this was a very odd change! Despite a few device and connectivity issues we managed, and everything worked out.

As the project began I was given responsibility for a number of tasks including background research, recruitment (both sourcing contacts and contacting those contacts), responding to queries and writing up the background research to begin forming the report’s introduction. Recruitment for the project was aimed at the whole of the UK so an important part of my role was to reach out to organisations, schools and social media groups from across the UK. This was difficult due to the varying school term times of the four countries and the general closing down of society due to the pandemic.

Example drawing submitted for the research.

Once recruitment was on its way I was able to get into the background research in preparation for the introduction. Having taken the Children’s Drawings module at Level 6 I already had an understanding of how children’s drawings are investigated and analysed and so I could focus on research more specific to the project such as research that focused on children’s drawings of illness, disease outbreaks and trauma. When conducting the background research searching I was able to use all of the literature searching skills I have gained over my 3 years at Staffs. If you are looking for an easy way to gather research with all the key information in one place I recommended putting it into a table, a tip that Dr Sarah Rose shared with me!

An example table of how to organise literature


If you get the opportunity to do any sort of Research Assistant position, go for it! It’s great work experience, it looks amazing on your CV and it’s fascinating to be able to work alongside the lecturers you see all the time!

If you would like more information on the project please do have a look at the project’s website (www.coviddrawings.org.uk) or if you have any questions please email research@coviddrawings.org.uk (we are still recruiting!). You can also read more about the project in a recent blog by Dr Richard Jolley.


The Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University offers a range of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Psychology at the University’s £30 million Science Centre in Stoke-on-Trent. The department is home to the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research, a large and active group of psychologists, PhD students and researchers conducting work into a variety of psychological disciplines and topic areas.

Interested in a Psychology degree? Come to an Open Day – for further details and to book your place at an open day please click here.

Children’s drawings of their coronavirus experience

Dr Richard Jolley writes about recent covid drawings research and how you could help!

How has the current coronavirus situation changed the lives of children? What would the children themselves tell us?

The current coronavirus situation presents a unique opportunity to discover the diverse characteristics and consequences of a pandemic upon children. When children are facing changes and challenges to their lives it’s important to allow them to communicate how they are thinking and feeling. Sometimes they’re happy to talk about their experience, but sometimes they prefer to express themselves in other more creative ways, such as making a picture.

Dr Richard Jolley

Since June of this year a group of researchers in the Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University have been asking children and parents across the UK to help us understand how children are experiencing the coronavirus situation through their drawings. It is being led by myself, Dr Richard Jolley, with co-investigators Dr Sarah Rose, Dr Claire Barlow and Dr Romina Vivaldi. It has been funded by the School of Life Sciences and Education (LSE). This has enabled us not only to purchase a dedicated website and database for the project but also to employ a final year student (Gina Halliwell) as a research assistant to manage the day-to-day running of the project. You may like to read Gina’s own blog on her research experience on the project!

So what is involved in the project?

Parents are directed to the website www.coviddrawings.org.uk where all the information about the project and what they need to do is provided. We even have made a video just for children to explain the project! In essence, children are asked to think about their life since the coronavirus entered the UK, how it might have changed their lives, how they have felt about that, and then to draw a picture about it. There is a comments box provided if the child wishes to write about their drawing (potentially with the parent’s help).  A parent then takes a picture of the drawing and uploads it to the website.

So, what themes might you expect children to show in their drawings? The highly transferable nature of the virus? Or perhaps the behaviours we have all been asked to do to limit the risk of transmission – washing hands, social distancing, wearing masks, and self-isolation? Then, there is the psychosocial impact upon the children, particularly the isolation from friends during the lockdown. Will children show psychological reactions of fear, sadness or loneliness? And what about the changes in the routine of their lives, such as disruption to school attendance and different family dynamics at home? Has this led to boredom and restlessness, or presented an opportunity to spend more time on activities and family they love? Despite the challenges the current situation has brought children we are seeing children communicate more positive aspects through their drawings. 

What themes can you see in this drawing?

Whatever themes the children communicate we are interested in whether they vary across the ages of the sample, which might indicate that developmentally children have experienced the current situation differently. Also, will there be differences in the themes communicated between boys and girls? In addition to age and gender, we will be exploring whether the themes vary according to a set of demographic and situational variables. For instance, which country the child lives in, whether they live in a rural or urban environment, if either parent is a key worker, and whether the child returned to school – all of these could have an impact on how the child draws their experience of the coronavirus. In addition, we ask the parents to indicate on a scale the extent in which the family health has been affected by the coronavirus situation, and ask the child to choose from a series of faces how they have felt about their life in these times.

Would you like to participate?

And here is the good news – we are very keen to recruit more children and parents! If you are reading this blog as a parent of a child between 4 and 14 years, and you live in the UK, do you think your child would like to draw their own experience of the coronavirus situation? In which case please have a look at the project’s website www.coviddrawings.org.uk If you have any further questions please contact the project email address research@coviddrawings.org.uk and we will respond as quickly as we can to your query.


The Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University offers a range of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Psychology at the University’s £30 million Science Centre in Stoke-on-Trent. The department is home to the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research, a large and active group of psychologists, PhD students and researchers conducting work into a variety of psychological disciplines and topic areas.

Staffs Student Stories: Meet Lisa Kyte BSc (hons) Psychology with a Foundation Year

About Me:

I’m a full-time mature student with two boys who are older now so not quite so demanding! I was widowed three years ago and realised that life is too short not to follow dreams, so here I am and it’s the best thing I’ve ever done! I’ve now completed my Foundation year and am about to embark on my three years with the University. 

Why did you choose to study BSc (Hons) Psychology with a Foundation Year at Staffordshire University?

Initially I returned to college, qualified as a level 2 teaching assistant and completed my maths GCSE, who knew you could love maths! Then, with an interest in the human mind and working with / supporting children with educational needs, I chose BSc (Hons) Psychology with a foundation year. Choosing Staff’s was always going to be the obvious choice as it’s closest to home and I still need to be home for commitments. However, I have friends who attended and their reviews as well as others speak for themselves. I now know how accurate they are as I’ve had a fantastic first year. Lots of support and made a great group of new friends!

What has been the best part of the course so far? 

It’s got to be all the ‘stuff’ you didn’t know! I’ve learnt so much! So much so that, it’s opened up so many different career options for me to consider and lots of possibilities. I think people have a fear of returning to education when they are older, worried you won’t remember everything, trust me, yes it’s a little scary to start with but that soon disappears and you are more capable than you think, an advantage of being a mature student is that you really want this! 

What are the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome and how have you overcome them, while studying with us? 

It’s got to be understanding and embracing the roller coaster. I won’t lie, there are times when you feel overwhelmed, especially if you have been out of education for a while. But! The answer is simple, turn to your friends and tutors, realise it’s normal and you are not alone. It passes quickly and your sense of achievement will push you to carry on. When you look back you’ll recognise the dip and know how to deal with them in the future. Just have your eye on that Graduation Day! 

What are your plans for the Future? 

Originally I wanted to continue with being a Teaching assistant in primary education, but now I’m also considering teaching Psychology and even the possibility of going on to working within the NHS. I think the main thing to remember is I still don’t need to make that decision yet and I have so much more to learn, so who knows! 

Would you recommend our course to others? 

Yes, absolutely I would recommend this course. It’s full of interesting topics, you’ll learn so much with so many avenues to consider following it. There is such variety and areas for discussion. The foundation year is also a great way of getting back into education and it gives you a great start to your course with the University. 


The Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University offers a range of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Psychology at the University’s £30 million Science Centre in Stoke-on-Trent. The department is home to the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research, a large and active group of psychologists, PhD students and researchers conducting work into a variety of psychological disciplines and topic areas.

Staffs Student Stories – Meet Phil Bowman, BSc (Hons) Psychology with a Foundation Year

About me

Foundation Year Psychology Student at Staffs Uni
Phil Bowman

Before coming to Staffs Uni I worked as a substance misuse practitioner, a very rewarding job that I loved doing. The job itself was manageable although most of our clients had very complex needs such as mental health issues, the inability to cope with emotion and those that still lived a chaotic lifestyle.

Although I built a great rapport with my clients, I was also aware that I lacked the ability to help them on a deeper level and I felt out of my depth when they disclosed some deep rooted issues such as childhood trauma, drug induced psychosis, Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome to name but a few. This left me feeling inadequate as a professional and I began to ponder on the idea that I had the ability to learn how to best support them on a much more holistic level. 

Why did you apply and how did you get a place on the course? 

Whenever I toyed with the idea of going to uni, I would be filled with self-doubt. I thought that I was too old to learn and that I should just continue as a low level practitioner because it was within my “comfort zone”. To be honest I managed to talk myself out of applying more times than I care to remember. I thought that if I left work I would lose my compassion for the clients, I would lose the ability to empathise and I would lose sight of the reasons why I wanted to support people in the first place. 

For as long as I remember I have always been a very stubborn individual, and I have always feared becoming stagnant, I think these qualities helped me to make the decision to apply to Staffs Uni. I applied for the Psychology degree with foundation year in 2019 with the attitude that this would be my “last roll of the career dice” at the age of 48 I believed that alot of companies like to employ younger people, this is not always the case, but it does not stop me from worrying about it.

My interview with Dr Claire Barlow went really well, she had the ability to dilute my self-doubt and managed to reassure me that if I worked hard enough I could achieve great things. I came away from that interview feeling as though I could achieve anything as long as I applied myself

What has been your experience of the course? 

My first day was very daunting and I felt like a fish out of water, I found myself looking around the room and soon noticed that I was the oldest student, I felt like a grandad that had been invited on an 18-30 cruise! This feeling was short lived because my classmates and tutors were brilliant, within about a week I found my place in the class and was soon voted in as our course rep along with a dear friend of mine called Lisa.

Doing a foundation year was a no brainer for me as I did not have a clue about academic writing or independent learning. I struggled/still struggle with I.T and had not stepped foot in a learning environment for 32 years. I have now completed my foundation year and it has given me the ability to centre myself and slip comfortably into learner mode. I can step up to a computer and apply myself to the task in hand, without thinking that the task is too big to complete. I pride myself on having submitted all my assignments on time and achieving above average grades.

This would not have been possible without the support from an amazing team of tutors but also the support from my fellow students. We all have our strengths within the class, mine was mainly lived experience, we had the younger post 6th form students that were “whiz kids” on computers and we had mental health practitioners that wanted to take their careers further. We, as a team, pulled together, we set up a WhatsApp group so we were always in contact to support each other through the assignments and through the revision weeks leading up to exam days, we, as a team, have had an amazing experience!

What are your next steps and plans for the future? 

I am now moving into my second year of study (level 4 at the University). I am going into this year full of confidence and excitement, comfortable in the knowledge that I will be guided and supported throughout my degree. Staffs uni has given me a new sense of self-belief and I am very excited to see where this wonderful journey will take me.


Interested in a Psychology degree? Come to an Open Day – for further details and to book your place at an open day please click here.

inpsych blog

Psychology Teacher Forum 2019 – Training & Networking event held for Teachers

By Dr Claire Barlow (Senior Lecturer in Psychology)

The Department of Psychology recently hosted the Psychology Teacher Forum, an event aimed at psychology teachers in the West Midlands and surrounding areas. The aim of the Forum was to create a networking opportunity for teachers working in Further Education, alongside workshops focussed on teaching some of the core areas of psychology led by subject specialists at the University.

The Psychology Department welcomed 23 delegates who teach psychology on a range of different qualifications (e.g., A Levels, BTEC and Access courses). Judy David opened the event with a brief history of the Psychology Department at Staffs before Mel Hall delivered the first workshop where top tips and ideas for teaching Research Methods were shared, including happy and sad graphs! 

Our Psychology technicians, Paul and Sarah, then led a tour of the Department facilities with an opportunity for delegates to take part in some demonstrations of our specialist equipment, such as the pain lab cold pressor tank.

Dr Jade Elliott then delivered a session on biological psychology, demonstrating interactive activities such as the 3-D brain app and the Wisconsin Sorting Task. 

After a bit of light refreshment and networking supported by current PhD student Tanya Schrader, the final workshop covered courses and careers in Psychology delivered by Dr Claire Barlow and Dr Heather Semper.

We received some really positive feedback after the event, one attendee commented:

“thank you to all of the academic and support staff who made yesterday’s Teacher Forum such a wonderful event.  My team and I all left with some brilliant ideas and we were so impressed with the facilities and knowledge of both the staff and technicians. We are now looking into bringing our students along to see how much is on offer locally for L3 provision and beyond” 

Dr Claire Barlow was involved in the organisation of the event alongside Dina Grinsted (Schools & College Champion for Psychology), Claire commented:

“it was great to welcome so many fellow teachers of Psychology to the Department.  One of the most positive aspects was the sharing of our experiences of teaching this fascinating subject area as well as the connections we have made.  We hope to build on this event and create further opportunities to work together in the future”


The Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University offers a range of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Psychology at the University’s £30 million Science Centre in Stoke-on-Trent. The department is home to the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research, a large and active group of psychologists, PhD students and researchers conducting work into a variety of psychological disciplines and topic areas.

Interested in a Psychology degree? Come to an Open Day – for further details and to book your place at an open day please click here.

Psychology Teacher Forum Event – Free training event for Psychology Teachers

Do you teach psychology in a school or college? Would you like the opportunity to connect with other psychology teachers in the local area and hear about ideas for teaching different areas of psychology?

As part of our expanding schools and colleges provision, the Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University are running a Psychology Teacher Forum event on Wednesday 27th February 2019. The event will run from 2:00-5:30pm and will include practical workshops focussed on sharing ideas for teaching practice, will enable us to share student progression information (i.e., current content and expectations when studying for a Psychology degree and psychology careers information) and also to provide an opportunity to meet other teachers/lecturers of psychology. We have various sessions planned which include:

  • Teaching Research Methods
  • Tour and Demonstrations
  • Teaching Biopsychology
  • Networking and Refreshments
  • Psychology Degrees and Careers

This event will be followed by our Psychology and Me public event, which you are also invited to attend. This event runs from 6:00-8:30pm, and will involve a series of short talks from our academics, followed by demonstrations of our psychological equipment and research.

If you would like to book a place on the Psychology Teacher Forum Event please visit the following link and complete the short booking process:  https://psychologyteacherforum19.eventbrite.com

We look forward to welcoming you to the Department of Psychology!


The Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University offers a range of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Psychology at the University’s £30 million Science Centre in Stoke-on-Trent. The department is home to the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research, a large and active group of psychologists, PhD students and researchers conducting work into a variety of psychological disciplines and topic areas.

Interested in a Psychology degree? Come to an Open Day – for further details and to book your place at an open day please click here.

For further information about the Psychology degrees on offer at Staffordshire University please visit the below pages:

Staffordshire University’s Psychology Department gives Year 12 students an insight into “Uni Life”

The Psychology Department at Staffordshire University took part in the “Uni Life Event” (23rd to 25th June) which offered year 12 students from the Midlands an opportunity to stay in the halls of residence at Staffordshire’s City Campus in Stoke-on-Trent, explore the state-of-the-art facilities and get hands-on experience of degree courses in subject workshops.

CB Summer School 1

Dr Claire Barlow giving her workshop on children’s drawings

Dr. Claire Barlow and Mel Hall, both lecturers in the Psychology Department at Staffs, ran a workshop about studying Psychology at Staffordshire University. In the session, they talked about the Psychology undergraduate degrees as well as running interactive activities on children’s drawing development, jury decision making and group behaviour.

CB Summer School 2Claire said “The session was really positively received by students, many of whom were introduced to Psychology for the first time. The activities gave students an opportunity to learn more about specialist and applied areas of Psychology and also an insight into studying for a Psychology degree at Staffordshire University”.

CB Summer School 3

Examples of different forms of drawing

Students who took part were asked for their feedback on the session, stating Psychology talks were very interesting and taught me lots about the teaching style at uni. The lectures were interesting’; ‘Psychology was interesting, I now know what I want to do at university’; ‘Sessions were interactive and I now feel more confident’ and Forensic Psychology suited my career aspirations and was really interesting.’


For more information or details of the wide range of Psychology related postgraduate degrees on offer at Staffordshire University please visit our website and our courses page.

The School of Psychology, Sport and Exercise at Staffordshire University is a leading School in the UK for Psychology degrees and is situated in the heart of England.  We produce internationally recognized research which is driving knowledge in this area forward and we work with a variety of healthcare providers, charities, international sports teams and private sector organisations.